Also today: UN says Africa growth back on track, but employment remains stubbornly high; Zimbabwe’s white farmers conduct land grab of their own; Bashir warns on south Sudan secession ahead of tense April election; Foreign banks scramble for Libyan licences; Niger authorities crack down on crime.
Bharti scoops up Zain for $9 billion, threatens MTN’s African supremacy
India’s Bharti Airtel has scooped up most of the African operations of Kuwait’s Zain for $9 billion (some reports say more), making it the second biggest cellular firm on the African continent. The two companies signed a legally binding definitive agreement in Amsterdam, where Zain’s Africa subsidiary is based. Bharti says the buyout will make it the world’s fifth-largest wireless company, with operations across 18 countries and a total customer base of about 179 million. That should keep MTN busy in future.
Photo: A truck bearing a mobile advertisement for telecoms firm Zain is parked along a road in Ikoyi district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, March 24, 2010. Bharti Airtel moved closer to fulfilling its Africa ambitions after Kuwaiti telecom Zain’s board approved the sale of most of its African assets to the Indian firm for $9 billion, sources said. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
UN says Africa growth back on track, but unemployment remains stubbornly high
The UN says African economy will likely grow by an average 4.3% this year from 1.6% in 2009, but there may not be a similar increase in employment. In its report, the world body predicted that sub-Saharan oil exporters would grow by 5.1% this year, while oil-importers would expand by 4.9%. That’s well short of the 7% needed to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals of halving African poverty by 2015. The report indicates that the economic gains of the last decade have failed to translate into more and better jobs.
Zimbabwe’s white farmers conduct land grab of their own
South African authorities have handed the ownership documents of a Cape Town house belonging to Zimbabwe’s government to white Zimbabwean farmers who want compensation for the seizure of their land. The notice came after a South African court agreed with rulings by a Southern African Development Community court that land-grabs in Zimbabwe were unlawful, paving the way for farmers who lost property to file for compensation in South African courts. Zimbabwe’s government has two months to come up with the money for legal fees incurred by the farmers in their compensation claim case, or the house will be sold. A lawyer for the farmers says because the house is being sub-let, it’s a commercial property which is not protected by diplomatic immunity.
Bashir warns on south Sudan secession ahead of tense April election
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir warns that any delay to the country’s first multiparty elections in 24 years could affect a 2011 referendum on secession for the oil-rich south. Bashir’s comments come on the back of rumours that the former southern rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement will call for a delay in the elections, saying the polls will not be free and fair. The referendum is part of a 2005 peace deal ending two decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. The south has made increasing noises that it will opt for secession, while Bashir’s National Congress Party would like the country to stay united. But much hangs on the April election, which will decide on whether a referendum will be held at all. Things will be tense, throughout.
Foreign banks scramble for Libyan licences
Western banks are applying for banking licences in Libya following a relaxation of rules under the country’s economic liberalisation programme. The usual suspects include HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank, as they seek to gain business from the nation’s rich oil and gas fields, on the proviso that they have a local partner. Libyan authorities say a decision on the first licence will be made in July. For many years Libya was deemed the arch-sponsor of global terrorism, causing its economy to stagnate under the weight of international sanctions. But lately the West has been rehabilitating the north African Arab state, with an eye on its natural resources. But Western leaders still have to deal with Muammar Gaddafi. He’s been calling for Nigeria to be split into a multiplicity of ethnically-based nations, and wants jihad against Switzerland. Those ideas must come from the effect of oil and gas fumes.
Niger authorities crack down on crime
Niger police arrested more than 600 suspects in raids aimed at curbing a crime wave in the capital, Niamey, some six weeks after the army ousted President Mamadou Tandja in a popular coup. The latest arrests follow a wave of detentions of senior officials linked to the former president. Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, is facing dire food shortages, which authorities fear will leave some 200,000 children with severe malnutrition this year. Tandja’s government didn’t acknowledge this fact, so the army is cracking down on armed robberies and hijackings that have accompanied the oncoming famine. The coup leaders have promised to hold elections and clean up the country’s politics and business. Meanwhile, the new military government and donors are scrambling to prepare for food shortages.